Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at Ethiopa’s tourism recovery, Alaska Air’s earnings, and a hotel diversity initiative.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Monday, January 30. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Alaska Airlines, one of the U.S.’ most profitable airlines during the 2010s, is struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels. That’s in part due to its heavy reliance on a troubled technology sector, reports Jay Shabat, senior analyst for Airline Weekly, a Skift brand.

Alaska’s reported fourth quarter operating margin was less than half of the figure from the same period in 2019. Chief Financial Officer Shane Tackett said during its recent earnings call that Alaska’s bottom line has been hurt by tech’s decreased travel spending, which he acknowledged may never return to pre-Covid levels. Shabat writes the sector’s reduced travel budgets is one reason California’s airline markets have been slower to recover than those in other areas of the U.S. Alaska executives said nearly a third of its revenue is tied to the state.

The company also reported a 11 percent year-over-year increase in labor costs during the fourth quarter. Alaska signed a new pilot contract last October that increased wages up to 23 percent.

Next, Ethiopia’s tourism industry has been pummeled in recent years by the pandemic and a civil war. Although the conflict ended last November, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes travel executives are having a difficult time convincing foreign governments and tour operators that Ethiopia is a safe destination.

While the country’s most prominent tourist sites and attractions were spared during the conflict, Mark Chapman, founder of Ethiopia-based Tesla Tours, said that there are virtually no tour groups active in the country. Chapman stated that tour groups, which he expects to start returning by the end of the year, represent big business for Ethiopia’s hotels. An Ethiopian official said the country’s tourism industry lost $2 billion due to the war and the pandemic.

Habtemariam notes one major obstacle in Ethiopia’s tourism recovery are travel warnings issued by Western governments, including by those of the U.S. and UK. Chapman acknowledged that government warnings could deter travelers from visiting regions with popular tourist attractions.

Finally, many U.S. hotels have struggled to appoint non-white executives coming out of the pandemic, but some are finding ways to place more people of color in leadership roles. How exactly? Contributor Carley Thornell reports that hotels are turning to their restaurants to increase diversity.

Thornell writes the ranks of leadership in U.S. hotel kitchens are becoming more diverse regarding race and gender. She cites Zaid Khan’s promotion to executive chef at Fairmount’s Oak Long Bar and Kitchen in Boston as a prominent example. Khan, a Muslim, said he’s seen non-white chefs make significant progress ascending the corporate ladder throughout his two-decade career in hospitality.

Michael Cheng, the dean of Florida International University’s school of hospitality, said corporations have realized in recent years that diversity can help increase profitability as well as boost creativity among teams.


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Tags: alaska airlines, DEI, ethiopia, skift podcast

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